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Old 09-11-2019, 07:14 PM
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Scientific Basis for Astrology


I have been thinking about a scientific basis for astrology. It does involve stars and constellations, but their only function is that of a calendar. Consider a primitive society living where there is a sharp contrast between summer and winter weather and/or a sharp contrast between the amount and intensity of sunshine between winter and summer. Also, this primitive society does not have modern housing or utilities so the effects of the seasons are very noticeable even when indoors. A child born in the late fall or early winter would be bundled in clothing and held closely for the first few months of his or her life to keep it warm. I child born in the late spring or early summer might be given little or no clothing and allowed to crawl about freely. Wouldn’t these different conditions in the first months of life have an impact on personality and abilities of the child as he or she grows older? Of course, these effects would be much less pronounced in a temperate climate or when climate-controlled housing is available.

I can’t be the first person to think about this. Does anyone have any cites for an earlier version of this proposition?

Does anyone want to argue against this proposition? A would like to hear your arguments.
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Old 09-11-2019, 07:24 PM
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Heck, I've always thought that seasonal variations during human gestation was the whole basis of astrology. I'd put more emphasis on the seasonal availability (or not) of micronutrients in the mother's diet during various stages of fetal neural development. Or even the seasonal availability of lipid-rich foods.
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Old 09-11-2019, 09:05 PM
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Wouldn’t these different conditions in the first months of life have an impact on personality and abilities of the child as he or she grows older?
If that is your assertion, it is your job to prove it, not ours to disprove it.

Last edited by zombywoof; 09-11-2019 at 09:08 PM.
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Old 09-11-2019, 09:21 PM
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The first thing you need to do is find out if there is any seasonal basis to personal characteristics. Come up with tests to objectively measure whatever characteristics you want to check on, have somebody administer it in a double blind fashion, and then build up a database. Do children born in one part of the year have statistically significant different characteristics from children born in another part of the year? If you find they do, you've established that a phenomenon exists.

Then if you want to test your hypothesis about what causes the phenomenon, you're going to need to gather a database on when children were born and what the local weather was like. If your theory is correct, you'll see evidence to support it. For example, if children were born in March but in a year when there was an early spring, you'd expect those children to have different characteristics than children born in March in a year with late snow.

Then you'll want to test for other possible hypotheses, like mjmlabs' suggestion of seasonal variation in diets, do eliminate those hypotheses.
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Old 09-11-2019, 09:23 PM
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I always like Chinese astrology -- one animal sign, depending on the year you were born, everyone born that year: same sign and personality. What must it be like, to be a kindergarten teacher, when all your students (most of them anyway) are the sign of the horse -- fiery of temperament.

"Oops, poor fortune there Shen, you get 39 fiery horses."

"I know, I know, I'll be drinking early tonight"

I like to tell people my star sign is Ophiuchus -- the constellation in the middle of the zodiac that the ancients simply ignored because 12 star signs was enough. People ask, "Could that really be you sign?"

"Sure. I was born right when it should be. Or next to it, at any rate. Or actually, no where near ... for all that it matters."

Its astounding how people who'd mock believing in God get so testy when astrology is mocked.
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Old 09-11-2019, 09:34 PM
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A few points.

-I am unaware of any scientific studies linking personality traits to birth during particular seasons of the year.

-I am unaware of any scientific studies linking personality traits to particular astrological signs.

-Insofar as astrology links particular personality characteristics to particular groups of signs, these occur at different times of the year. For example people born under the fire signs of Aries, Leo, and Sagittarius are supposed to share the characteristics of being passionate, impulsive, and spontaneous. However Aries occurs in the spring (March-April), Leo in the summer (July-August), and Sagittarius in the fall (November-December). Similarly the Earth, Air, and Water signs are supposed to share personality traits but are scattered through the year. According to astrology itself, people with similar personality traits are born under vastly different environmental conditions.

-Modern astrology is based on traditions that originated in ancient Mesopotamia and which were elaborated in ancient Greece, where there isn't the sharp contrast between seasons that you posit. (There is variation, of course, but it's not that strong.)

In short, the hypothesis you propose fails the simplest analysis.

Last edited by Colibri; 09-11-2019 at 09:36 PM.
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Old 09-11-2019, 09:59 PM
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Following on the above, are "Cancers" different from "Leos"? If so, why? - they're both born in the heat of the summer (perhaps only a day apart!) - similar for "Capricorns" and "Aquariuses" in the winter.
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Old 09-11-2019, 10:01 PM
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Your hypothesis could be tested against astrology because the latter predicts that all children born under Ares, for example, should be similar in some fashion. Your hypotheses says that Northern hemisphere babies born under Ares should be similar to Southern hemisphere babies born under Libra which occurs in the same spot in southern spring.
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Old 09-11-2019, 10:24 PM
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Of course the astrological predictions found in modern newspaper columns or even in ancient Mesopotamia are complete B.S. I was really thinking more about the prehistoric origins of astrology. And I am not about to launch a double blind study and develop databases; I lack the time and resources and I am too lazy. Also, finding a suitable test population in the modern world might be difficult. I acknowledge that if I make an assertion then it is up to me to prove it and not up to y'all to disprove it. But hey, Internet message boards wouldn't be much fun if we always had to follow that rule. I have probably never had an original thought in my life. Does anyone know of an existing scientific study that tests my original hypothesis? Also, mjmlabs hypothesis about gestational nutrition sounds very interesting.
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Old 09-11-2019, 10:49 PM
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Of course the astrological predictions found in modern newspaper columns or even in ancient Mesopotamia are complete B.S. I was really thinking more about the prehistoric origins of astrology.
But if prehistoric peoples observed that there was an actual, real correlation between personality types and seasons, why would Mesopotamian astrology develop in such a way to ignore such correlations?
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Old 09-12-2019, 12:03 AM
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There is evidence that certain disorders - schizophrenia is one - occur in births unevenly throughout the year. It is thought that if the fetus is in a critical period during times of higher disease spread, it can affect normal growth. This also occurs higher in big cities with more exposure to others.
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Old 09-12-2019, 12:30 AM
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Of course the astrological predictions found in modern newspaper columns or even in ancient Mesopotamia are complete B.S. I was really thinking more about the prehistoric origins of astrology.
AFAICT, there is no evidence for "prehistoric origins of astrology" if by "astrology" you mean genethlialogy, i.e., the casting of predictive individual horoscopes based on an elaborate quantitative predictive model of planetary positions at the moment of the native's (subject's) birth.

Mathematical astronomy at a level of sophistication that allows reasonably accurate prediction of planetary positions dates back only about 3000 years or so to ancient Mesopotamia. And its original form, like that of most other state-supported divination practices, was state-focused, not individual-focused. The predictions were about what would happen to the ruler and the kingdom, not what the future of an individual would turn out to be.

Of course there was a whole folklore of supposed "omens", both astral and terrestrial, and related divination practices such as foretelling the future from oil drops on a water surface or the behavior of randomly observed animals and what not. But astrological prediction in the sense we understand it---predicting the future from celestial events which can themselves be predicted via mathematical models---did not start out as a way of predicting the future of individuals. So everybody please rein in the idle speculations about what prehistoric people might have observed about personality traits and birth seasons.


It's thought that astrological prediction shifted to the development individual nativities (birth horoscopes) in the late first millennium BCE largely as a result of the Achaemenid Empire taking over Babylonian territory. The Achaemenids had little interest in the Babylonian deities, and little reason to support a state-temple institution of astrological prediction that was ultimately supposed to provide divine messages from said deities. So the temple astronomers started to take their astrological-prediction business to a private clientele interested in the fate of their children, rather than the governmental client looking for predictions about the state. And then Hellenistic Greek scholars in Alexandrian Egypt got hold of the system, and the rest is (more) history.

(ETA: See, for example, The Heavenly Writing: Divination, Horoscopy and Astronomy in Mesopotamian Culture by Francesca Rochberg.)

Last edited by Kimstu; 09-12-2019 at 12:32 AM.
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Old 09-12-2019, 02:27 AM
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I have been thinking about a scientific basis for astrology. It does involve stars and constellations, but their only function is that of a calendar. Consider a primitive society living where there is a sharp contrast between summer and winter weather and/or a sharp contrast between the amount and intensity of sunshine between winter and summer. Also, this primitive society does not have modern housing or utilities so the effects of the seasons are very noticeable even when indoors. A child born in the late fall or early winter would be bundled in clothing and held closely for the first few months of his or her life to keep it warm. I child born in the late spring or early summer might be given little or no clothing and allowed to crawl about freely. Wouldn’t these different conditions in the first months of life have an impact on personality and abilities of the child as he or she grows older? Of course, these effects would be much less pronounced in a temperate climate or when climate-controlled housing is available.

I can’t be the first person to think about this. Does anyone have any cites for an earlier version of this proposition?

Does anyone want to argue against this proposition? A would like to hear your arguments.
This is not a 'scientific basis' for anything. You're doing science wrong. It starts with observing that a phenomenon exists - until that is done, no explanation *why* or *how* it exists, is necessary.
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Old 09-12-2019, 04:54 AM
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If there were anything at all to astrology, people born under a specific sign would inordinately be drawn to careers in the military, the priesthood, or prostitution. I don't have a cite, but recall some science fiction writer (Asimov?) checking the available public records and finding no correlation between military personnel being born more heavily under Mars than Venus. No month was statistically over- or under-represented.
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Old 09-12-2019, 06:44 AM
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I always like Chinese astrology -- one animal sign, depending on the year you were born, everyone born that year: same sign and personality. What must it be like, to be a kindergarten teacher, when all your students (most of them anyway) are the sign of the horse -- fiery of temperament.
If the version on restaurant placemats is to be believed, I've thought it gave practical advice about matchmaking because the people you should avoid are usually near the other end of the chart, i.e. around 6 years age difference, which is large enough that you are likely to be at different stages of life but small enough to not realize that initially. Whereas any smaller difference, a match (whether self-arranged or not) might not be affected by an age difference, and a larger difference would be so great it would have to be taken into consideration.
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Old 09-12-2019, 09:19 AM
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The essence of science to take a hypothesis (maybe conjecture is a better word), ask can it be refuted and if so how. Then try to refute it. If you fail, you are beginning to have evidence. Try another way of refuting it. Repeated failure to refute it begins to establish it. If you are unwilling to do this, then what you are doing is idle speculation.
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Old 09-12-2019, 09:41 AM
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nm, not appropriate to GQ

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Old 09-12-2019, 09:41 AM
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I now wish I had titled this thread “A rational basis for the prehistoric origins of astrology.”

Mangetout says that I am doing science wrong because I did not observe a phenomenon. But I did observe a phenomenon, i.e astrology exists in modern times. I think we can all stipulate to this. I am not trying to prove that modern astrology is correct in any sense. My personal opinion is that modern astrology is complete nonsense. My hypothesis is that astrology had its origins in prehistoric folklore that originated from actual personality traits that varied depending on the season in which one was born. Imagine the following conversation among prehistoric women sitting around the campfire after a hard day of gathering roots and berries:
PREHISTORIC WOMAN #1: Throg and Grog sure make a lot of noise when their daddy comes back to camp with a dead animal.
PREHISTORIC WOMAN #2: Of course they do, Throg and Grog are summer babies.
PREHISTORIC WOMAN #1: But Brog, Prog, and Juanito just go hide in the bushes.
PREHISTORIC WOMAN #2: Of course they do, Brog, Prog, and Juanito are winter babies.
PREHISTORIC WOMAN #3: Winter babies are very timid.
PREHISTORIC WOMAN #4: Yeah, everybody knows that.
Colibri asks, “… why would Mesopotamian astrology develop in such a way to ignore such correlations?” This is mere speculation on my part (as is almost everything that I have said already) but maybe the Mesopotamian government found that astrology was a useful way to control the population. Or maybe some entrepreneurial Mesopotamians figured out a way to make money from astrology.

Horatio Hellpop posits that different signs would be drawn to different careers. My response is that I think by the time society had differentiated into specific roles for soldiers, priests, and prostitutes then the effects of birth season were no longer observable. It probably only worked in societies in which everyone had the same role of hunter/gatherer/prostitute.

I am not a paleoanthropologist. I am getting older but I am not an anthropologist. How would a skillful paleoanthropologist with sufficient time and resources approach this hypothesis? Suppose my original hypothesis had been that modern funerary practices had their origins in prehistoric attempts to prevent disease and discourage scavengers. At least then the paleoanthropologist would have physical evidence such as gravesites, campsites, etc. But for my hypothesis about the origins of astrology, all we have are maybe unrecorded oral traditions. That makes things difficult.
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Old 09-12-2019, 09:45 AM
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Its astounding how people who'd mock believing in God get so testy when astrology is mocked.
Can you name some? It's all believing in magic so far as I'm concerned.
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Old 09-12-2019, 09:55 AM
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The closest academic report on birthdate relates to the age when children begin a specific grade/academic year compared to their birthdate.

It is a fairly known and reasonably well researched phenomenon that the younger children in a school class tend to perform less well unless specific measures are taken to address this - and these measures are apparently quite modest

https://www.ifs.org.uk/wps/wp1006.pdf

That's about as close as I can get in trying to relate astrology to personal characteristics, but if there is to be any effect of birth date then it is highly likely to be due to environmental issue such as diet availability - and I would expect that in first world nations that would be pretty minimal since these are not subsistence or hunter gatherer economies.

As for directly relating personalities to star signs - the best that might possibly be said is that there might be an association since certain astronomical features are seasonal. Note also that star signs are utter bunkum anyway - they are just some arbitrary way of noting a 2 dimensional astronomical map to some notional and cultural image of what they might represent,instead of the 3 dimensional reality of what is actually present.
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Old 09-12-2019, 10:44 AM
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My hypothesis is that astrology had its origins in prehistoric folklore that originated from actual personality traits that varied depending on the season in which one was born.
Is your "hypothesis" affected at all by reading post #12 in which it is pointed out, on the basis of solid factual evidence from the textual record in Akkadian and Greek, that:

astrology actually had its origins much later, in a historical era as a means of making predictions about the fate of states and regions, NOT individuals, and that individual nativities were a subsequent offshoot of that?


Did you maybe stop reading post #12 at the word "genethlialogy"? To restate the basic points in conventional "prehistoric" dialect:

ASTROLOGY MUCH LATER THAN WRITING---NO PREHISTORIC ASTROLOGY

EARLY ASTROLOGY TELL FORTUNES OF CITIES, NOT PERSONS

ASTROLOGY ABOUT "SEASON IN WHICH ONE WAS BORN" INVENTED AFTERWARDS

YOUR "HYPOTHESIS" COMPLETE BULLSHIT


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How would a skillful paleoanthropologist with sufficient time and resources approach this hypothesis?
Well, they would start by asking historians of science what information we have about the early development of astrology along with astronomy as a historical phenomenon.

When it was explained to them that the concept of individual nativities, that is astrological predictions about individuals based on the astronomical situation at the time of their birth, developed from a different form of astrology in a historical period long after the end of prehistory, then they would realize that their hypothesis is completely untenable and needs to be discarded.
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Old 09-12-2019, 11:04 AM
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My hypothesis is that astrology had its origins in prehistoric folklore that originated from actual personality traits that varied depending on the season in which one was born.
If that's your hypothesis, you have to start by showing that actual personality traits varied depending on the season in which one was born. If you can't show that first, then your hypothesis is untestable.
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Old 09-12-2019, 11:12 AM
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Is your "hypothesis" affected at all by reading post #12 in which it is pointed out, on the basis of solid factual evidence from the textual record in Akkadian and Greek, that:

astrology actually had its origins much later, in a historical era as a means of making predictions about the fate of states and regions, NOT individuals, and that individual nativities were a subsequent offshoot of that?


Did you maybe stop reading post #12 at the word "genethlialogy"? To restate the basic points in conventional "prehistoric" dialect:

ASTROLOGY MUCH LATER THAN WRITING---NO PREHISTORIC ASTROLOGY

EARLY ASTROLOGY TELL FORTUNES OF CITIES, NOT PERSONS

ASTROLOGY ABOUT "SEASON IN WHICH ONE WAS BORN" INVENTED AFTERWARDS

YOUR "HYPOTHESIS" COMPLETE BULLSHIT



Well, they would start by asking historians of science what information we have about the early development of astrology along with astronomy as a historical phenomenon.

When it was explained to them that the concept of individual nativities, that is astrological predictions about individuals based on the astronomical situation at the time of their birth, developed from a different form of astrology in a historical period long after the end of prehistory, then they would realize that their hypothesis is completely untenable and needs to be discarded.
I doubt that genethlialogy was spontaneously and instantly created. I suggest that maybe some of its origins may be found in much older traditions and folklore.
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Old 09-12-2019, 11:20 AM
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The essence of science to take a hypothesis (maybe conjecture is a better word), ask can it be refuted and if so how. Then try to refute it. If you fail, you are beginning to have evidence. Try another way of refuting it. Repeated failure to refute it begins to establish it. If you are unwilling to do this, then what you are doing is idle speculation.
But you first require evidence for a phenomenon that demands explanation. OP hasn't even met that hurdle. You don't need a hypothesis if there's nothing to explain. That's like (say) proposing a mechanism for how homeopathy works.
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Old 09-12-2019, 11:22 AM
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If that's your hypothesis, you have to start by showing that actual personality traits varied depending on the season in which one was born. If you can't show that first, then your hypothesis is untestable.
That's what makes this difficult. It would be almost impossible to recreate the conditions in which prehistoric human societies lived in order to test this in real time. And even if we could recreate those conditions, it might be considered child abuse. Where can we find factual evidence to refute or support my claim? Maybe we could observe species similar to humans. However, most mammals, especially those that live in areas with extreme seasonal variations, only reproduce at certain times of the year.
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Old 09-12-2019, 11:28 AM
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But you first require evidence for a phenomenon that demands explanation. OP hasn't even met that hurdle. You don't need a hypothesis if there's nothing to explain. That's like (say) proposing a mechanism for how homeopathy works.
Explaining how homeopathy works is different than explaining why we even have a concept known as homeopathy, correct or not.
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Old 09-12-2019, 11:36 AM
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I doubt that genethlialogy was spontaneously and instantly created. I suggest that maybe some of its origins may be found in much older traditions and folklore.
Yeah maybe...maybe not. What would be a good way to determine if this is already known?

Well, you could read the previously-cited The Heavenly Writing: Divination, Horoscopy and Astronomy in Mesopotamian Culture by Francesca Rochberg. That might shed some light on possible precursor beliefs.
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Old 09-12-2019, 11:45 AM
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And I am not about to launch a double blind study and develop databases; I lack the time and resources and I am too lazy. Also, finding a suitable test population in the modern world might be difficult.
Just now, I spent a few seconds to run Find on the Births sections of Wikipedia's pages for January 10 and July 10. The former had 23 instances of the string "football;" the latter 24. (Some footballers' lines had the string appear twice but those could be easily filtered out.)

Of course we're still left with the problem OldGuy mentioned: January is summer in the Southern Hemisphere. But the whole question complicates if it's birth climate rather than birth date that is of interest.
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Old 09-12-2019, 12:00 PM
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That's what makes this difficult. It would be almost impossible to recreate the conditions in which prehistoric human societies lived in order to test this in real time. And even if we could recreate those conditions, it might be considered child abuse. Where can we find factual evidence to refute or support my claim? Maybe we could observe species similar to humans. However, most mammals, especially those that live in areas with extreme seasonal variations, only reproduce at certain times of the year.
I'm not sure why you are going on about "extreme seasonal variations." It's already been pointed out that astrology originated in the Middle East, an area without extreme seasonal variations, at least of the kind you seem to be talking about. Even if you postulate that there were prehistoric antecedents in the area (despite the lack of any evidence for such), these cultures also wouldn't have experienced extreme seasonal variation. If such a correlation existed, one would expect it to be noticed by cultures in the Arctic and northern parts of the Temperate Zone, rather than in the Middle East.

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Old 09-12-2019, 12:06 PM
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Where can we find factual evidence to refute or support my claim?
Your claim is fully refuted by the factual evidence mentioned in my previous posts in this thread.

Predictive astrology did not originate in a prehistoric period, and was not initially concerned with birth horoscopes of random individuals.

Individual horoscopic astrology was a later development beginning around 2-2.5K years ago, most likely in response to a very specific set of historical circumstances in Mesopotamia.

Please stop pulling speculations about prehistory out of your ass when their supposed relevance to the origins of astrology has already been debunked.
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Old 09-12-2019, 12:14 PM
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I doubt that genethlialogy was spontaneously and instantly created.
Nobody claims it was. Instead, it was developed about 2-2.5K years ago, apparently as a variant of an earlier kind of astrological prediction about states, not individuals.

We have cuneiform texts surviving from this period, in the original clay tablets. We can see the relation between the divinatory traditions of state-temple astrological predictions and the subsequent individual horoscopes. (See, for example, Babylonian Horoscopes, also by Rochberg.) We don't have to make up speculations about prehistoric beliefs in order to understand how this happened.

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I suggest that maybe some of its origins may be found in much older traditions and folklore.
And I'm explaining to you why your suggestion is very implausible, based on known historical data.
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Old 09-12-2019, 12:16 PM
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I wouldn't call it scientific, but I have studied it for decades, and have found empirically, that people have guessed my sign from the way I look, and I have done so also.
I have also noticed particular traits (Virgos are critical, Leos like attention, etc).
But its not scientific.
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Old 09-12-2019, 12:19 PM
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I'm not sure why you are going on about "extreme seasonal variations." It's already been pointed out that astrology originated in the Middle East, an area without extreme seasonal variations, at least of the kind you seem to be talking about. Even if you postulate that there were prehistoric antecedents in the area (despite the lack of any evidence for such), these cultures also wouldn't have experienced extreme seasonal variation. If such a correlation existed, one would expect it to be noticed by cultures in the Arctic and northern parts of the Temperate Zone, rather than in the Middle East.
If all you had was a very primitive shelter and a campfire, I suspect that you would consider some of the seasonal variations in the Middle East to be extreme, especially if you had to live that way every day. Even in the Middle East it gets cold enough to get hypothermia in the winter and heat stroke in the summer. Kiribati, on the other hand, … .

Also, ancient peoples sometimes moved around a lot and probably took their folklore and traditions with them.
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Old 09-12-2019, 12:33 PM
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Originally Posted by SuntanLotion View Post
I wouldn't call it scientific, but I have studied it for decades, and have found empirically, that people have guessed my sign from the way I look, and I have done so also.
I have also noticed particular traits (Virgos are critical, Leos like attention, etc).
But its not scientific.
That's a phenomenon know as "confirmation bias."
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Old 09-12-2019, 12:46 PM
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If all you had was a very primitive shelter and a campfire, I suspect that you would consider some of the seasonal variations in the Middle East to be extreme, especially if you had to live that way every day. Even in the Middle East it gets cold enough to get hypothermia in the winter and heat stroke in the summer. Kiribati, on the other hand, … .
You're really reaching here. Your original hypothesis described "extreme seasonal variation." Why should this belief have developed in an area with much less seasonal variation than areas farther north?

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Also, ancient peoples sometimes moved around a lot and probably took their folklore and traditions with them.
Again you're reaching (also known as "making stuff up"). As far as I know, the ancestors of the cultures that developed astrology did not migrate into the area from farther north.

Although you profess to be looking for scientific explanations, none of your proposals and arguments bear the least relation to the scientific method. "It could happen!" is not a scientific argument.

Last edited by Colibri; 09-12-2019 at 12:50 PM.
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Old 09-12-2019, 12:49 PM
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Kimstu, Sailboat:

Just so you know, I am taking your suggestion to consult the Rochberg text seriously. But you haven't convinced me yet. Unfortunately, I can only find the first 16 pages online for free. Maybe I will go to the public library this weekend.
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Old 09-12-2019, 12:52 PM
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That's a phenomenon know as "confirmation bias."
Indeed. When it comes to astrology, I like to point out this demostration that James Randi conducted. (He handed out "customized astrological profiles" to students in a college class, and every student felt that the profiles described them well. Then, he revealed that everyone got the exact same profile.)
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Old 09-12-2019, 12:59 PM
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ancient peoples sometimes moved around a lot and probably took their folklore and traditions with them.
If all you're trying to do is figure out how specific "folklore" traditions of nativity omens might have partly influenced genethlialogical canons, that's quite different from trying to build a speculative foundational "scientific basis for astrology" out of guessed-at prehistoric beliefs.

As repeatedly noted, the conceptual basis for birth-horoscope astrology was rooted in astrology about a different form of prediction. The early horoscopes are much more specific about the astronomical configuration associated with a nativity moment (e.g., the zodiacal sign and "house" of the moment of birth) than the vague "seasonal" patterns you were trying to postulate as their ultimate source. So your original broader hypothesis about prehistoric origins of a possible "scientific basis for astrology" still won't fly.

But the predicted characteristics or "apodoses" associated with a particular "protosis" or horoscope configuration can come from a wide variety of omen traditions, largely the earlier forms of divination. Again, Babylonian Horoscopes has a lot of information about this.

What you'd have to do if you wanted to test even this more limited and reasonable hypothesis is the following:

1) Find detailed evidence about a genuinely prehistoric tradition of nativity omens. Either (a) from a currently existing traditional society that you can plausibly infer maintains a living tradition of such omens dating from prehistoric times that share their ancestry with the Babylonian birth omens (and good luck with that), or else (b) from a very ancient textual record that you can plausibly infer descends from prehistory, and likewise is connected to the Babylonian birth omens.

2) Find some close parallels between these presumed prehistoric nativity omens and the recorded apodoses or predictions in the early horoscopes, both Babylonian and early Greek (see Greek Horoscopes by Neugebauer and Van Hoesen, for example). If you find, for instance, an apodosis of the form "then the individual will have only one hand and will never marry" in both the "prehistoric" and historic corpora, that's pretty specific and plausibly suggests that the later version is directly descended from the earlier.

3) Trace back the historic version of the omen prediction as far as you can in more ancient forms of Babylonian divination, such as extispicy manuals and general omen collections. (There's a mass of sources on this, though nowhere near exhaustive: start with, e.g., the works of A.L. Oppenheim and Erica Reiner.)

4) Come up with a plausible scenario of historical transmission of this omen tradition from the "prehistoric" source you're reconstructing down to the earliest traces of the historically attested version.

And then you'll have a publishable paper, which will make an interesting contribution.

In any case, though, you'll just have to give up on the idea that association of such omens with specific astronomical phenomena like seasons might constitute a "scientific basis" for the predictions of birth-horoscope astrology. You can't get from prehistoric astronomical/meteorological understanding to the highly specific horoscope configurations of urban-civilization predictive astrology in any consistent way that meaningfully preserves the protosis-apodosis relationship.

ETA: Much of the content of Babylonian Horoscopes can be previewed on Google Books.

Last edited by Kimstu; 09-12-2019 at 01:01 PM.
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Old 09-12-2019, 01:14 PM
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Originally Posted by Colibri View Post
You're really reaching here. Your original hypothesis described "extreme seasonal variation." Why should this belief have developed in an area with much less seasonal variation than areas farther north?



Again you're reaching (also known as "making stuff up"). As far as I know, the ancestors of the cultures that developed astrology did not migrate into the area from farther north.

Although you profess to be looking for scientific explanations, none of your proposals and arguments bear the least relation to the scientific method. "It could happen!" is not a scientific argument.
I never used the term "extreme seasonal variation" in my original hypothesis. I only used the term "sharp contrast between summer and winter." I only used the term "extreme" when talking about mammals other than humans in a subsequent post.

Isn't one of the first stages of a scientific investigation is to gather facts and evidence? I only presented this problem as a proposition. I never claimed that it was true or false. I only posted it in hopes that other posters might have some ideas about how to gather facts and evidence.
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Old 09-12-2019, 01:16 PM
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Sometimes Dopers are a bit too knee-jerk on the skepticism. Just because the word "astrology" gets mentioned doesn't mean the OP doesn't have a good point. There are a number of studies linking temperament to birth season. It's a pretty fricking far leap from the results of the studies to astrology though.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11408788

https://www.sciencedaily.com/release...1205202510.htm

https://www.ecnp.eu/~/media/Files/co...INAL.pdf?la=en

Last edited by KidCharlemagne; 09-12-2019 at 01:20 PM.
  #41  
Old 09-12-2019, 01:36 PM
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My hypothesis is that astrology had its origins in prehistoric folklore that originated from actual personality traits that varied depending on the season in which one was born. Imagine the following conversation among prehistoric women sitting around the campfire after a hard day of gathering roots and berries:
PREHISTORIC WOMAN #1: Throg and Grog sure make a lot of noise when their daddy comes back to camp with a dead animal.
PREHISTORIC WOMAN #2: Of course they do, Throg and Grog are summer babies.
PREHISTORIC WOMAN #1: But Brog, Prog, and Juanito just go hide in the bushes.
PREHISTORIC WOMAN #2: Of course they do, Brog, Prog, and Juanito are winter babies.
PREHISTORIC WOMAN #3: Winter babies are very timid.
PREHISTORIC WOMAN #4: Yeah, everybody knows that.
I think this theory is begging the question. Why would these prehistoric women see children behave in different ways and then assume the difference is due to what time of year they were born in, as opposed to some other characteristic like hair color? You're saying that astrology originated from a common existing belief in the importance of what time of year a person was born in. Do you have any evidence that such beliefs were common?

Last edited by Little Nemo; 09-12-2019 at 01:37 PM.
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Old 09-12-2019, 01:40 PM
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Isn't one of the first stages of a scientific investigation is to gather facts and evidence?
Yes, and you've jumped ahead of that. The first stage of your study should be to find out of there are any set of characteristics related to what time of year a person is born. The second stage would be to find out if there is any widespread belief that such a relationship exists.
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Old 09-12-2019, 01:41 PM
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If all you're trying to do is figure out how specific "folklore" traditions of nativity omens might have partly influenced genethlialogical canons, that's quite different from trying to build a speculative foundational "scientific basis for astrology" out of guessed-at prehistoric beliefs. …
I was not even trying to go that far. I am only suggesting that some very ancient folklore about nativity omens might have been one of the inspirations for developing the genethlialogical canons, not that they influenced the way they turned out. And maybe some of those nativity omens had a basis in reality, but that probably didn't last very long.

Perhaps "scientific basis for astrology" was a poor choice of words but it did seem to get people stirred up.

Also, I learned a new word today. Can you guess what it is?
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Old 09-12-2019, 01:50 PM
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Yes, and you've jumped ahead of that. The first stage of your study should be to find out of there are any set of characteristics related to what time of year a person is born. The second stage would be to find out if there is any widespread belief that such a relationship exists.
See post #40 by KidCharlemagne.
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Old 09-12-2019, 02:24 PM
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1. Note that due to precession, the astrological months are off by a month from the actual zodiac constellations. So almost few of the people born in Leo, for example, actually had the Sun in Leo at birth. Plus the cusps are all over the place and non-uniform and on and on.

When your belief system doesn't match ... your belief system, you have problems.

2. I want to be absolutely clear. If a kid born in dead winter turns out to have a higher chance of having trait X the chances that the astrologers predict the kid will have trait X is virtually zero. If anyone of them were right the numbers will come out the same as the rain drop effect.

So proof of trait based on time of year has absolutely, positively nothing do with astrology.
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Old 09-12-2019, 03:37 PM
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I am a Scorpio, and we don't believe in all that astrology shit. We are all like that.
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Old 09-12-2019, 04:03 PM
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1. Note that due to precession, the astrological months are off by a month from the actual zodiac constellations....
A sign like "Leo" denotes a position on the ecliptic with the same solar position as it had thousands of years ago when the system was devised. If you have Faith you accept this. If you don't you don't.

Yes, this means that the water signs — Cancer, Scorpio and Pisces — are now actually occupied by the Air constellations, or rather the boundaries between Air and Earth constellations, but this is the least of the problems!
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Old 09-12-2019, 04:06 PM
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Originally Posted by kenobi 65 View Post
Indeed. When it comes to astrology, I like to point out this demostration that James Randi conducted. (He handed out "customized astrological profiles" to students in a college class, and every student felt that the profiles described them well. Then, he revealed that everyone got the exact same profile.)
FTR, the Randi thing was what I started to post earlier. Here, however, kenobi uses it much better than I would have.
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Old 09-12-2019, 04:58 PM
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Kimstu: I think the reason we got sideways is because we have been interpreting the term "astrology" differently. I was using the term astrology very loosely to mean using the position of objects in the night sky to help explain the occurrence, and not necessarily the cause, of non-astronomical phenomena whenever used by anyone, anywhere, at anytime. You, however, appear to use the term "astrology" to specifically refer to a belief system used in ancient Mesopotamia and later adopted by the ancient Greeks that is still talked about today. Despite your allegation that almost everything I have said is "COMPLETE BULLSHIT" (I am not disputing this), I still find your responses helpful.
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Old 09-12-2019, 05:50 PM
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Kimstu: I think the reason we got sideways is because we have been interpreting the term "astrology" differently. I was using the term astrology very loosely to mean using the position of objects in the night sky to help explain the occurrence, and not necessarily the cause, of non-astronomical phenomena whenever used by anyone, anywhere, at anytime. You, however, appear to use the term "astrology" to specifically refer to a belief system used in ancient Mesopotamia and later adopted by the ancient Greeks that is still talked about today. Despite your allegation that almost everything I have said is "COMPLETE BULLSHIT" (I am not disputing this), I still find your responses helpful.
Thanks! Preparatory to walking that back a bit, I still maintain that there is no historically plausible way to get from specific seasonal birth predictions in some hypothesized prehistoric folklore to any specific astrological nativity system. Astrology proper had already become much more astronomically complex than mere seasonal cycles (focusing instead on planetary position relationships in zodiacal signs and "houses", for instance) long before the concept of individual birth horoscopes was developed. The idea that such hypothetical prehistoric folklore could provide anything like a "scientific basis" for any known genethlialogical system is indeed complete bullshit.

However, you're not wrong that the birth omen part of such genethlialogical predictions---i.e., the part where some kind of birth circumstance is associated with some specific predicted characteristic on the part of the native, such as having small eyes or liking to gamble or whatever---had to come from somewhere. It seems most likely to me that first-millennium-BCE Babylonian scribes made most of those omens up themselves, but it is also reasonable to speculate that some of them could have been part of traditional folklore that was passed down even from as far back as prehistory.

So, for example, if a Babylonian or Hellenistic horoscope says something like "Birth in the second watch of the night with Jupiter near the end of Taurus and in opposition to the moon: the child will grow small and fretful", that is certainly not based in any "scientific" way on any prehistoric folk observations along the lines of "children born in midwinter tend to grow small and fretful". The disconnect between the basic astronomical cycles understood by prehistoric people and the complicated artificial system of ancient mathematical astrology is simply too great to allow for any meaningful alignment between their models of predicting the future.

Nonetheless, it is quite plausible that the identification of the basic predicted characteristic or apodosis "will grow small and fretful" was originally made far back in the human past. Out of the infinite number of characteristics that a native could be identified as having in a birth prediction, there is a certain subset that's found in nativity horoscopes, and at least part of that subset could well have become "traditional" a very long time ago.

So I'm not budging on my opinion that the system of cause and effect in the hypothesized prehistoric folk-omen tradition doesn't in fact provide any "basis" for the system of cause and effect in early genethlialogy. But the particular set of effects that are considered important within the system of genethlialogy could in fact date back to prehistoric tradition, at least in part.


As is so often the case when reading somebody else's wild-ass imaginings about a subject they don't know much about, it's easy to impatiently dismiss their main argument as obviously wrong because it is obviously wrong, and only notice afterwards that somewhere inside their main argument is a smaller point that actually makes sense and suggests a reasonable and interesting line of inquiry. So my apologies for being snappish while working my way down through your originally proposed hypothesis to your valid suggestion.
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